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SpaceX Launches AI Robot, Fresh Supplies For ISS Crew

The launch of the TESS satellite in April
The launch of the TESS satellite in April

A SpaceX rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, before dawn on June 29 carrying equipment and fresh supplies for the International Space Station (ISS) crew.

The mission, which is part of a $1.6 billion contract between privately owned SpaceX and U.S. space agency NASA, should reach the station on July 2.

The used Falcon 9 rocket, which flew just two months ago with a NASA satellite, is hauling some 2,700 kilograms of cargo, including a ball-shaped artificial-intelligence robot nicknamed the "flying brain."

Also on board are a new spare hand for the space station's robotic arm, genetically identical mice, or mousetronauts, and super-caffeinated coffee for the ISS crew.

The shipment is packed into a recycled Dragon capsule that first flew in 2016.

The launch marks SpaceX's fastest repeat flight of a booster rocket: The same Falcon 9 launched the planet-hunting TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) satellite in April.

SpaceX won't retrieve the booster for another flight because it is switching to a new model.

With reporting by AP and Reuters